Friday, July 27, 2012

Can't win for trying

The past month has been not so great. I'm pretty resilient and I haven't actually been unhappy, at least not for long, but in the six weeks, I've had someone break into my apartment, then try to break into my apartment again, had food poisoning, had some not so good stuff happen with my supervisor, not to mention a killer heat wave and too many cockroaches to count. My luck hasn't changed yet, because last Friday I was robbed.

That afternoon, I realized that my wallet wasn't in my purse. I searched my purse, my locker in the dorm where I was staying (I was in Rabat working at a camp for a week and a half), shook all my clothes in case a wallet might fall out and then checked my purse again, in case I missed it. I hadn't missed it, so then I swore.

I had paid for a taxi the night before and then walked straight back to the camp and hadn't left since, and I think my wallet was left in the cab, which meant I had no chance of finding it again.

First, I needed to file a police report, so I could get a replacement for my carte de sojour (official ID) and cancel my bank card. Luckily, Tarik, one of the counselors at the camp, speaks beautiful English and offered to accompany me, which was a huge help. I'm pretty sure my Arabic was up for the task, but I'm glad I didn't have to find out. (There would have been tears.) First, we went to a local police station, but were told to go to a different police station where taxi drivers are suppose to bring lost items. No one had deposited my wallet (I wasn't surprised), so from there, we walked to the main police station in Rabat to file a police report, only to be told that I couldn't because I didn't have any ID.

"No," I explained. "My ID was in my wallet. Which is gone. Which is why I'm here."

They berated me for not having a copy of my ID or my passport with me, and then told me they couldn't help me because I didn't live in Rabat, and that I needed to go back to my site and talk to the police there, even though the theft had happened in Rabat. I called Peace Corps, who argued with the police for me, and the police finally agreed to let me file a police report if I could provide a copy of some form of ID, which Peace Corps had. Peace Corps even offered to drive a copy of my passport over, but before I could tell them what police station I was at, my phone, which refused to charge that morning, died.

I maybe swore again. I definitely thought about crying.

Next, Tarik and I walked to the bank to ask what I needed to do about my back card. They also told me to go back to my site (even though my back account was set up in Rabat) and then berated me for not traveling with my bank statement, but finally agreed to help me if I brought a police file and a copy of my passport.

Next, I headed to the Peace Corps office to get some ID and call my Dad and have him deal with my US bank cards (which were also in my wallet), but, as a Ramadan miracle, when I got to the Peace Corps office, I was met by a staff member waving his phone at me and saying, "She has it."

Turns out, "she" was Leah, one of the other volunteers at the camp and "it" was my wallet, sans cash but with my debit cards and my carte de sejour, lHimdulilah! I went to the lounge and called my mom and cried for a little bit (it had been a rough day) and then walked back to the camp. As I was getting close to the dar talib where the camp was held, a women ran out of her house and explained that her kids had found my wallet, and recognized me from the pictures on my ID because they had seen me walking in the neighborhood with the kids from the camp, so they took the wallet back. (Which, actually, that's a really lovely way to end a day that had me questioning my faith in the decency of humanity.)

My wallet had been trashed. They took all the cash (and there was a lot), an 8 gig zip drive, a recharge card for my phone and a note my parents had slipped in my lunch when I was in sixth grade, saying they loved me. (I've carried it ever since and whenever I'm sad or lonely, I pull it out and read it. I'm actually more upset about the note than I am the cash, which is just money and can be replaced.) I'm a little concerned about my debit card, even though I've checked my account and there's been no activity. I would cancel it, just to be safe, but I'm going to England next month and there's zero possibility of me getting a replacement card before I leave, so for now, I'm just going to be diligent about checking my account every day.

I guess this had a happy ending, or as happy of an ending as it could, but it still sucks, especially on top of everything else that has happened since June. I could really use a break.

Friday, July 13, 2012

So many feelings, none of them good

I just found (and then killed) two cockroaches in my house.  And one of them was on my ponj, which, how am I suppose to scream like a little girl and leap onto the nearest piece of furniture if the cockroach is actually *on* the furniture?  I *sleep* on those ponjs.  (The clearest sign of how much I've changed in the past ten months is that I didn't even consider screaming like a little girl and leaping onto the nearest piece of furniture, and instead immediately grabbed the nearest bottle of water and killed it.)

Also, cockroaches are terrifying hard to kill.  I was pounding the cockroach with a five litre bottle of water and it kept twitching and twitching.  Why won't it die?  Or the time I herded a cockroach into my toilet and dumped an entire bucket of water in after it and it CLIMBED BACK OUT, like some sort of terrifying sewer monster.

And now, every time I see something move out of the corner of my eye, I assume it's another cockroach, scurrying about my apartment, and between the wind blowing everything about and the fact that my apartment is legit infested with birds that like to walk around my livingroom and kitchen, I'm doing a lot of twitching right now.

So many feelings, none of them good.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy Birthday, America

Happy belated birthday, America!  I celebrated the 4th of July by doing the most patriotic thing I could think of and applying for my absentee ballot.

Did you know that Morocco was the first country to publicly recognize America's independence and the first piece American public property outside the United States was in Tangiers?  I wanted to tell my host family about it at dinner last night, but there's no way my Arabic is up to that.

Also, Morocco very kindly put on a miniature fireworks display for the 4th.  And my miniature fireworks display, I mean the schoolyard across the street from my apartment caught on fire (because it's really hot, my host sister told me) and I stood on my roof at 1:00 in the morning and pretended the flames were fireworks while praying that someone other than me knew about the fire and was dealing with it.  Eventually my neighbors came out to the roof as well and I asked if the fire was a problem.  They told me no because it was contained by the school walls (which are covered in scorch marks now), and after about an hour, a firetruck showed up to take care of the blaze, answering my question of whether there are firetrucks in Morocco.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Food Poisoning (Is Way Worse on a Bus)

Fair warning, I really tried to clamp down on my Peace Corps induced case of chronic over-sharing, but I am talking about food poisoning and I didn’t have a lot of standards BEFORE I joined PC.

I woke up on Saturday morning with food poisoning, or at least that's what I now think it was. At the time, all I knew was that I felt terrible. I tried curling up in a miserable ball before it became abundantly clear that wasn’t going to suffice.  Look, I’d never had food poisoning before, but I can only imagine it's way worse when you're staying at dormitory style government housing and going to the bathroom means running down the hall.

I threw up four times that night, and when I woke up the next morning, feeling like a truck had run over me, and drank some water, I immediately threw that up as well.  I was 200 miles from home for a meeting and had already bought my bus ticket home (on the fancy bus line since PC was footing the bill).  I sat on the bed after returning from the bathroom, sweaty and disheveled from throwing up five times in as many hours, and told my sitemate, "I don't know if I can make it back to site."

"Here," she said, handing me a plastic bag. "You can make it."

“I think I need two,” I told her, but that was exactly the attitude I needed, so I hauled myself off the bed and to the bus station. I bought a bottle of water and took lots of tiny sips, because I had never been so thirsty and yet unable to drink in my life. The bus from Agadir to Marrakesh is three and a half hours and goes through some stunningly beautiful scenery, but I spent most of the trip trying to doze against my headrest. I kept taking tiny sips of water and made it all the way to the outskirts of Marrakesh before my stomach rebelled and I threw up everything I had managed to drink that morning.

Lucia looked over in the middle of me dry heaving into a plastic bag and made a sympathetic face. "I am so sorry for being a terrible traveling companion," I whispered.

"No, it's okay," she assured me.  “I have headphones.”

We sat in the bus station in Marrakesh for a while before finding transportation back to site.  (The quickest route back to site is a grand taxi, which is seven people shoved in an old model Mercedes sedan and there’s no room to throw up in the back of those.)  Luckily, loitering in the bus station meant we ran into two other PCVs from our stage (small damn world) and managed to catch one of the two nice buses with AC that goes through town.

I managed to drink half of a Sprite on the ride home, which at least gave me a little bit of energy, but as we pulled into town, my stomach began to flop again.  You're almost home, I told my stomach, but I kept feeling worse and worse. We flagged a cab to take us home, but I threw up again as we were getting in the cab and then again just a minute down the road.  Lucia had to give the driver directions to my apartment because I was too busy dry heaving into a plastic bag to speak.

Once I made it home, I called PCMOs (PC doctors) who made concerned sounds about my inability to keep liquids down in this heat, and prescribed me anti-nausea medicine so could try to start re-hydrating. I took Lucia up on her parting words of "anything I do to help" and begged her to go buy me medicine, since I wasn't sure I had enough energy to make it to a pharmacy, much less across town to the bank.  Then I laid down on my ponj because my stomach was upset again and I really didn't want to throw up for an eighth time, and fell asleep.  I woke up a few hours later when Lucia called me to tell me that she had walked all over town, but all the pharmacies were closed.

"Bwuh?" I said.

"I know," Lucia said.  "They all have the same sign hanging in the window saying something about June 30th to July 7th, but that's all I know."

I called PCMOs back to let them know that the pharmacies in town were all closed and after going through my (limited) options, the nurse suggested that I take a couple of Benedryl to knock myself out and hope I had stopped throwing up in the morning.

That’s when I cried for a little bit, because I had used up my daily allotment of being a brave little toaster and dealing with shit like a mature adult.  Then I took the Benedryl and slept for twelve hours, and while I have spent the last two days alternating between napping and reading, I haven’t thrown up in two days and have managed to eat a piece of toast and some grapes, so I think I’m on the mend.

Food poisoning is the worst and I will never eat somewhere called Mickey Burger’s again (I knew I should have gotten the pizza), but once I made it home, I pretty quickly reached the stage where I realized I could either laugh or cry about it, and I would much rather laugh.  Plus, you're not a real Peace Corps Volunteer unless you have at least one gross, over-sharing disease story, and at least I got mine in style.